Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Story

Editor’s Note: Wouldn’t you know it? Fiction Friday falls on Christmas, of all days. I’m spending the day with my family and I figure most people are too. What dedication for you to come by this blog on Christmas! Rather than reward your dedication with a post that says that I won’t be posting today, I thought I would invite you to come with me and visit Sara and her family as they celebrate Christmas.

Mark Jr. peered into the box—the last package—turned away from it and went back to the car he had been running across the hilly terrain of the couch. He mashed one of the buttons on top; the lights began to flash and the siren began to blare.

“I guess that tells us what he thought of that,” Ellen said. She put her own gifts on the floor and stood up. “I’m going to go fix breakfast.”

Her husband didn’t look up from his effort to affix a new scope to a riffle. Sara looked up briefly, but her eyes went back to the new book she had in her hand.

“That is, if you guys want breakfast,” Ellen said.

“I didn’t think you wanted a response,” Sara said, her eyes still on the pages of her book. The older Mark said nothing. Ellen walked out of the room.

The phone rang—once then a second time.

Ellen came back into the room. “That was the police.”

Mark turned his attention away from the riffle and stared at his wife. Sara’s eyes looked over the top edge of her book, while Mark Jr. kept running his car across the couch.

“They found a broken window at the café. They need someone to go down there,” Ellen said. “We’ve never had any trouble and then on Christmas…”

“You want me to go down there?” Mark asked.

“No, I’ll go. You wouldn’t know if anything was missing.”

“I’m going too,” Sara said, putting a bookmark in her book and standing up.

Main Street was deserted. The shops were closed. It was very different from the normal buzz of activity. The only people in sight were some police officers, gathered in a cluster at the instance to the café and a busboy from the hotel next door. He was standing at the hotel entrance, watching the police, perhaps to see if he could figure out what was going on.

The damage to the outside of the building appeared to be limited to the window for the pastry shop. It was shattered, but the double doors and the large windows of the restaurant were undamaged. One of the police officers was standing inside the pastry shop, talking to some of the others through the missing window.

“We’ve already looked around inside,” one of the officers said when he saw the two women approach. “We didn’t find anyone, but some of the doors are locked.”

Ellen pulled out a key and used it to unlock the front door. She and Sara went inside with the police officers. Other than a cold breeze blowing through the pastry shop, everything looked seemed normal. The dining room looked like it was all in order. They walked back to the kitchen. Nothing seemed out of place. They looked in the freezer. Nothing seemed out of place. They left the kitchen and looked over the rest of the building, going from room to room, unlocking doors as necessary, but everything was in order.

“I guess they just broke the window,” Ellen said when they were done.

In time, the police officers left and Ellen and Sara were there alone.

“Do you mind staying here until your Dad can come and put plywood over this window?” Ellen asked. “Or I can stay.”

“No, I don’t mind,” Sara said. And then it was just Sara in the big empty building. Most of the police officers disappeared, but a couple of them were clearly visible on the other side of the street. There was no reason to watch the front window very closely. She went back to the kitchen.

Everything was clean and ready for Saturday. The pots were hanging in their place. The plates were stacked neatly. It looked cleaner than it did when they knew an inspector was coming. Sara looked around the kitchen, not really having anything to do. She turned and put her hand on the door to leave.

Behind her, there was a noise, like something hitting metal. She turned around, but everything looked the same. There was another noise. It came from the direction of the dishwasher. Sara walked over too it. There was another thump. Sara grabbed the handle and raised the sides.

In the dishwasher, curled into a ball, was a girl. Her jeans were ragged. Her blond hair was tangled and knotted. She smelled like she hadn’t bathed in weeks.

“What are you doing in there?” Sara asked. “Get out of there. You could get hurt.”

“Are you going to turn me in?”

“Are you the one who broke the window?”

The girl nodded.


“I was hungry,” the girl said.

Sara looked at her, examining the girl, still curled up in the dishwasher.

“What are you going to do?” the girl asked.

Sara walked over to one of the big stoves and turned on the burner. She grabbed one of the big pans and set it on the flame. “Come on,” she said. “I’ll fix you something to eat.”